Book Review: Caught in a Trap by Rick Stanley with Paul Harold (1992)

Over a number of Guinnesses as we watched the snow fall on my birthday this year, which I spent in Milwaukee helping a friend move, we exchanged book reading recommendations. I suggested Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, and my friend, who is a part-time Elvis impersonator and full-time Elvis lookalike, suggested this book. When my beautiful wife and I visited Florida this spring, we went used book shopping, which is our wont, and at The Book Exchange on Northlake in West Palm Beach, the book faced out and caught my eye. So I spent ten dollars on it, because my friend really wanted me to read it.

Well, it’s not a hard read. The full title is Caught in a Trap : Elvis Presley’s Tragic Lifelong Search for Love. The introduction says the author’s goal is not to evangelize. The book is published by Word Publishing. You can guess which impulse won out.

Rick Stanley’s mother married Vernon Presley after his wife died, so the Stanley brothers are Elvis’s stepbrothers. That’s his in onto the lifestyle of Elvis, as his family moved to Graceland when Elvis mustered out of the Army in 1960. Stanley became part of Elvis’s traveling crew when he was sixteen, so he had some access.

Still, instead of a straight biography, we get an evangelist building a parable. Two brothers, one really talented and beloved, the other lower key but saved by his eventual conversion to a mid-seventies blue-jeans-and-tee-shirts denomination of Christianity. Stanley relates actual events in Elvis’s life, but he adds pop psychological interpretation to Elvis’s inner state that emphasizes his parable. He also interjects a number of biographical details from his life, which he sets up as a parallel to Elvis’s except for the love of a good Christian woman which will ultimately redeem him from the world of the entertainment industry and the drugs. The final chapter takes place after Elvis’s death, where Stanley comes out on his own as a legitimate evangelist speaker, loved by many because he used to serve the King and now serves The King.

The story and the parable and everything are an interesting read; it sounds as though the story would have made an interesting novel of some sort. Unfortunately, it’s not a good Elvis biography as the man really only plays a bit role in the greater story the author’s trying to tell.

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Little Pay Gap In St. Louis

A slightly slanted story in the St. Louis Post-Dipsatch lauds:

There’s a bit of good news for beleaguered blue collar workers in St. Louis: On average, their pay trails their white collar counterparts’ by just $3.73 an hour, the narrowest margin among large U.S. metro areas, Labor Department data show.

In other regions, the gap between blue and white collar hourly pay was as large as $14.12 in mid-2003, according to the data, the most recent figures available.

While there’s no clear explanation for the smaller difference in St. Louis, it’s likely evidence of a few trends and unique features of the area economy, experts said.

Credit the region’s rich union tradition, economists say. And “we have several high-paying manufacturing companies here, like Boeing, the automakers and Anheuser-Busch,” said Donald Phares, an economist at the University of Missouri at St. Louis.

Blue collar workers in this region earned an average of $17.72 an hour in mid-2003. That put St. Louis near the top, above several areas with higher costs of living. In Denver, for example, blue collar workers averaged $15.55 an hour.

While that’s nice, one with a less unionphilic attitude might hit immediately on these other ramifications first:

  • White collar workers are underpaid in St. Louis, which explains why young people get degrees and leave.
  • Manufacturers, with an eye on labor costs, won’t relocate to St. Louis. Heck, it takes large “incentives” to keep the existing ones here, which means that the blue collared employees and the underpaid white collar employees (and the forgotten pink collar employees–whatever happened to them?) waste a portion of their taxable incomes keeping those manufacturers here. Oh, and fresh new ballparks.

Remember, friends, that every high price is a boon for some seller and every low price is a bargain for some buyers, and you too will understand economics and will be disqualified from journalism.

Also, please note my new favorite made-up epithet: dipsatch. Man, that just sounds like a nasty thing to call someone, ainna?

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Cardinals Coalition Update

Well, another conspiracy theory blown. Man, if I keep this up, people are going to realize I’m a crackpot once their cover was blown, the liberal sports establishment changed the script quickly, ainna?

Well, I guess we’ll have to settle for beating the Red Sox in the World Series since those Yankees had early tee times this winter.

Which reminds me, I don’t own any apparel with the Cardinals logo on it, and it’s probably a little late to go looking for it this year. It’s been almost fifteen years since I had a Cardinals shirt, although I did have possession of a Cardinals hat briefly in 2001 during a five hour rain delay (before the hat became a Christmas gift).

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Putting Lipstick on a Pig

A new story on the Internet indicates Bill Clinton wants to be U.N. Secretary General.

Oh, my, think how much more palatable bad UN policy would be if only an American with the misplaced charisma of Bill Clinton were selling it. The United States in the ICC. American military receiving orders from foreign leaders. Global taxes paid by U.S citizens for the benefit of the third world–and the Eurocrats who administer them.

Thanks, but I prefer not to contemplate the impact of an American secretary general on American elections, particularly 2008 when Hillary Clinton might run. I don’t want to think about Clinton and Clinton running the world.

I’ll personally spring for a copy of Civ III so Bill Clinton can build the UN and call for Secretary General elections any time he wants to without ruining the world for the rest of us along the way.

(Link seen on Outside the Beltway.)

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A Symptom, Or A Root Cause

By now, we’ve all heard about the survey that says Republicans have better sex than Democrats. Hidden within this story, we have another symptom, or perhaps a root cause:

Laura Bush will always be, in the public imagination, The Librarian. Even for Democrats, who like to fantasize that behind her smile lurks a curious, even progressive ally, their spy in the White House, reading with her Itty Bitty book light in bed late into the night.

Jeez, Louise, Democrats, fantasizing about Laura Bush in bed and she’s reading? That’s pathetic. What do you do when you get really wild? Laura, Jenna, and Barbara in bed reading?

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Humor, or Precognition?

The Best Way to End the Huge Partisan Divide is a Bloody Civil War by Frank J.:

For years now, the country seems to have been split down the middle, and its eating away at the soul of the country. Usually, you have one group get a majority which then pushes around the other side and makes fun of how their children look, but the old way seems so distant now. How can we return to the former status quo? As usual, war is the answer.

Now all Americans will be united and happy, because the liberals will no longer be defined as Americans and will be shot by BBs.

It’s been a long time since we’ve had a civil war, but hopefully we learned plenty from the first one to make this one quick and efficient. It will be quite different, though. For one thing, it won’t have a stark geographical divide. Friendly and enemy territory will have to divided on a house to house basis – or maybe even room to room. Also, a big difference is that one side has all the guns since both gun owners and the military tend to be in the right-wing. This should make things easy if planned well.

I would be laughing if I didn’t think it was remotely possible.

Ban guns and try to make gun owners turn in their weapons and we’ll find out.

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Cut the Guy Some Slack

So John Kerry is going goose hunting:

Kerry will be out hunting geese today but he’s also out to bag more undecided voters.

Kerry adviser Mike McCurry says Kerry’s Ohio goose hunt is aimed at giving voters “a better sense of John Kerry, the guy,” and maybe win over swing voters who aren’t sure they feel any connection to the Democrat.

Lay off him, wot? A man has got to feed his family.

Why, when I was a young man, my father was a carpenter/remodeler whose work fell off in the winter time, and the ducks, geese, rabbits, and occasional deer that my father harvested sustained his family through the hard months of a Wisconsin winter.

Why should it be any different for the billionaire Heinz-Kerry family?

Look on the bright side, at least Teresa won’t have to worry about swallowing lead pellets, which was a morbid fear I had as a child because I didn’t want lead poisoning as part of my meal.

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The Conspiracy: Revealed

Am I the only one to see the obvious in how the preordained baseball parable is playing out as designed by John Kerry’s campaign team?

The humble Red Sox, from Boston and many of whose players went to foreign schools, go up against a swaggering challenger who is expected to win from the beginning of the baseball season all the way to the actual beginning of the primaries ALCS. However, the Bostoner came from way behind, when all had given up on him the team.

So tonight, when the Houston Astros beat the St. Louis Cardinals and advance to the world series, we’ll have the Texas team against the Boston team. Undoubtedly, the Texas team will go up against the Boston team with a win at Fenway, but then the Boston team will win at Fenway, and will win three games in the red state in the heartland to defeat the Texans in Texans.

Yea, verily, the Boston team shall overcome the curse of the which has kept the Massachussetans out of power for so long.

Because that’s the way the liberal sports establishment and Hollywood have written the inspirational story for consumption by the beer-drinking rubes in the middle of the country in order to alter the outcome of the presidential election, to energize the base in the Northeast and to depress turnout in Missouri and Texas. The sports establishment think they own us and will stop at nothing to get a new publicly-funded stadium administration in the White House!!!.

Dare I say it? Yes! A Vast Left Field Conspiracy!

And if the endless litigation“election” carries on into February, watch for the Cowboys/Patriots matchup in the Super Bowl. With its preordained results!!1!

Excuse me, the helpful assistants here are helping me into a nice warm housecoat, but once I have it on, I won’t be able to reach the keys to continue with my revelations.)

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Cardinals Coalition Update

Cardinals lead Houston in NLCS 3-3.

That’s right, I said lead Houston. Even though the Cardinals have only won the same number of games as Houston has, they’re the Cardinals, fer cryin’ out loud.

Quit your sissy snivelling, New York, and put your back into it. Losing by 7 in the 7th? Are you yellow?

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Book Review: The Big Kiss by O’Neil De Noux (1990)

I was first introduced to O’Neil De Noux ten years ago (already) by my friend Stever. He also introduced me to Laurel K. Hamilton, to whom I have introduced my beautiful, but only lightly posting lately, wife. So Stever’s gift lives on eight years after he moved to a better job with a better junkyard back east.

I probably read this book when Stever loaned me his collection, but I’ve been looking for them lately in used book stores. I scored this paperback on our recent excursion to Kansas City, and the fact that I paid two and a half bucks for a paperback should indicate what I think of the series.

Basically, Dino LaStanza’s a new homicide cop in New Orleans, and he’s quite the hotshot after solving the Slasher case (in a book prior to this one). He’s feeling his age (he’s ancient at 31) and it doesn’t help–well, actually, it does–that he’s seeing a younger woman. Like 22. Hey, I know the feeling. I’m ancient at 32, and I cannot keep up with my younger, more attractive, and more energetic wife.

LaStanza catches a whodunit murder–meaning anything which involves more than a percursory investigation–he’s in the pressure cooker again because you’re only as good as your last case. Except this victim is in the Mafia, and suddenly LaStanza’s dealing not only with people who’d put a two .22 slugs in you for no known reason, but with his own Sicilian heritage.

The O’Neil De Noux books are tidy little police procedurals with grit, gristle, and some pretty steamy sex scenes in them. Although they’re not Ed McBain, and although the book didn’t live up to ten years’ worth of idealization, it’s a good, quick read. If you can find it. The book’s out of print and it wasn’t a blockbuster release even in 1990 or 1991.

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From Worse to Bad


The world’s whales, porpoises and dolphins have no standing to sue President Bush over the U.S. Navy’s use of sonar equipment that harms marine mammals, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.


A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, widely considered one of the most liberal and activist in the country, said it saw no reason why animals should not be allowed to sue but said they had not yet been granted that right.

No accusations yet from either campaign on disenfranchising aquatic-mammal-American voters.

Although bear in mind John Kerry communicates with dolphins.

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The James A. Igert Memorial Scholarship at Northern Michigan University accepts donations all year long.

Help a kid, preferably a veteran kid, study the sciences in the U.P.

That’s Upper Penninsula to those of you from outside the north, and it refers to the fact that the state Michigan actually comprises two different penninsulas. For crying out loud, look at a map. I’m not making this stuff up.

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Accidental Insight

Truer insight into the municipal mind was never gained than the following line from a column in the Shepherd Express:

As strong feelings about preserving the City of Franklin’s natural areas clash with the need for a tax base to pay for the amenities people need to live there, the peaceful setting this southern Milwaukee County suburb is known for has been disrupted.

Yep, it’s not about an efficient, inobtrusive government and a low tax rate; it’s about the amenities.

Municipal governments feel the need to compete with other municipal governments’ water parks and whatnot, regardless of whether their tax bases can support such ongoing expenditures.

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The Microsoftization of Google Continues

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch runs this piece of insightful analysis about the new Google desktop searching application:

People who use public or work computers for e-mail, instant messaging and Web searching have a new privacy risk to worry about: a new free tool from Google Inc. that indexes a PC’s contents to locate data quickly.

If it’s installed on computers at libraries and Internet cafes, users unwittingly could allow people who follow them on a PC to see sensitive material in e-mails they’ve exchanged. That could lead to disclosure of passwords, conversations with doctors or lawyers, or viewed Web pages detailing purchases.

Spare me.

First of all, many companies closely monitor the stuff filtering through their computers, even those used by individual employees. Yes, Virginia, your computer at work isn’t your computer, and you better believe that the creepy guy down in IT (to purloin the stereotype) reads everything you type into it, so don’t do anything on it that you wouldn’t want everyone else to see. Personal banking, hot e-mails to your wife and mistress, nothing. Expect that you’ll get a temp or consultant working in IT who wants nothing more than to snag your credit card or passwords before moving on.

And come on, if you use an Internet cafe, library, or college computer lab for anything but the most mundane Internet browsing, you’re already asking for the big hurt. Not only do you have to worry about an IT infrastructure staffed with transients (see above for risks involved with that), but you’re also facing other anonymous users installing spyware. I mean, public computers are public.

Unfortunately, the author of this piece attributes these security risks with the Google desktop when the risks actually represent an inherent danger of the computing environments described whether or not Google’s desktop has been installed.

Perhaps Google is on its way to being the next big technology company for media and the general population to nip in the flanks.

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Alcoholic Arithematic

Newcastle beers will will soon carry this warning label:

Responsible drinkers don’t exceed three to four units a day for men and two to three for women.

The key word is and, which indicates addition, so responsible drinkers won’t drink more than three to four and two to three which is five to seven teetotal.

Cripes, I wish someone had read this story to me aloud, because I’d prefer the misconception of Responsible drinkers don’t exceed 324 units a day for men….

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Book Review: Urge to Kill by Martin Edwards (2002)

I bought this book as part of my initial membership with the Writers Digest Book Club last year, and as all writers who subscribe to that book club want the cheap Writer’s Market, and everything else is gravy.

This book looked colorful, and its paragraph description led me to believe it would inspire me in my quest to write suspense novels and mysteries. Well, at least it didn’t take too long to read.

The book is a cross between a morbid coffeetable book, chock full of crime scene photos interspersed with movie stills, and an almost textbookish overview of crimes and their investigations. As a matter of fact, the author spends the introduction explaining that he’s written textbooks. So he’s a credible witness. Until he gets to the Firearms section of the Means to Murder chapter (chapter 2), which starts:

Firearms (other than crossbows, which are occasionally used as murder weapons) fall into two categories: smooth bore or rifled.

And a couple paragraphs later:

Single-shot automatics have to be loaded manually each time the gun is fired.

This section triggered enough doubt about the expert testimony that the author’s presenting to look with a skeptical eye on any technical detail within the book, which pretty much rendered the author’s claims to authority kinda moot.

Plus, it really only captures and distills the procedures and considerations given to a crime (particularly murder) that one would get from a number of years of Ed McBain, Thomas Philbin, and O’Neil De Noux. Of course, it includes the aforementioned photographs, so the actual text of its 190 some pages only really comprises 110 pages or so, but it’s still textbook enough to lack excitement.

Perhaps I’ll have gotten something from the page-long case studies in murders from Ted Bundy to the Unabomber to more obscure–to Americans–cases from the U.K. But probably not.

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Always Check the ALT Tags

As a Web software tester, I always check the ALT tags of images and, much to the chagrin of the developers with whom I work, I frequently take issue with non-parallel text, misspellings, or grammatical errors in the text that displays when a user mouses over an image.

Which is why you’ll never see this in a site (or HTML-enabled e-mail) I’ve tested:

A fund-raising e-mail from a Democratic congressional candidate contained a hidden expletive directed at his opponent, a newspaper reported Saturday.

The expletive aimed at Republican Greg Walcher could be seen when recipients dragged their cursor over an image of John Salazar, who sent the e-mail to supporters Thursday seeking donations, The Denver Post reported.

Sheesh. But I expect the team who put together the piece wasn’t concerned with quality.

(Link seen on Instapundit, who needs a link from me like he needs to find a penny on the sidewalk.)

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Google Desktop Deemed Creepy

In a Tech Test Drive column, Mike Langberg finds the new Google desktop useful, but creepy. Why is it creepy?

Desktop Search does three things in particular that could compromise your privacy when someone else uses your computer:

First, the software keeps a copy of all your AOL Instant Messenger conversations. AIM, for many users, is like talking over the water cooler at work — you say things you don’t want preserved for posterity. Until now, AIM conversations with your buddies disappeared from your computer the moment you closed the discussion window. Desktop Search, however, makes a copy of AIM conversations and keeps them forever.

Second, the software keeps its own copy of all your Outlook and Outlook Express e-mail messages — even after you delete them from within Outlook or Outlook Express. A confidential company memo, in other words, will still pop up during Google searches after you’ve emptied the Deleted Items folder in Outlook.

Third, the software keeps a copy of every Web page you visit and lists those pages in search results with the date and time of your visit. This even includes Web pages that are supposed to be secure from prying eyes, such as those run by online banking sites.

It’s creepy because it shows you the sort of personal information that someone else’s servers already store about you and gives you insight into how much information you’re leaving scattered around the world.

The fact that it’s available on your local machine shouldn’t give you additional pause unless you’re susceptible to the old ploy of letting a man with a thick Slavic accent whose car has broken down sit at your computer so he can send an e-mail to his mechanic. Or, of course, if your local machine is fundamentally insecure.

Nevertheless, I have given the edict to those machines that I administer that Google Desktop shall not be installed. Crikey, how about you do some organization of your materials and then use the Microsoft Find feature to fill the gaps, wot?

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